Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Familiar Names Helping Union County

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Familiar Names Helping Union County

Article excerpt

Byline: Chase Goodbread, Times-Union sports writer

LAKE BUTLER -- When Andrew Zow and Bennie Alexander moved on from Union County High to embark upon their college football careers in 1997, they left behind a state-best 40-game win streak, a run of three consecutive state championships and a state-wide understanding that the road to the Class 3A state title went through Lake Butler.

A year later, the win streak was snapped at 52.

Two years after that, coach Robby Pruitt left, about a dozen transfers followed, and the program went from 8-2 to 2-8.

Now, after successful collegiate careers, Zow and Alexander are back in Lake Butler working as assistant coaches. They are trying to rekindle the tradition that fell apart in their absence. New coach Buddy Nobles, who was an assistant coach on the Union County teams that Zow and Alexander helped to lead, brought the pair onto the coaching staff during the summer.

"It's going to take time," Alexander said. "But if it's been done here once, it can be done again."

While the Union County program declined in their absence, their college careers were much more successful. Zow became the all-time leading passer at Alabama for attempts (852), completions (459) and yardage (5,983), passing storied alumni like Joe Namath and Ken Stabler. Alexander made 36 starts at cornerback at Florida. He recorded eight interceptions and 170 tackles in his career.

Their college paths crossed in Gainesville in '99 when Alexander intercepted a Zow pass and returned it for a Gators touchdown.

"He pointed his finger on that one," Zow said. "I couldn't believe he pointed on me -- but anytime he brings it up, I just remind him of the score [Alabama 40, Florida 39]."

Both were four-time lettermen, each won a Southeastern Conference championship, and both will try again to begin a professional career next year. Alexander was cut in the preseason by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Zow had a brief tryout in the Canadian Football League but nothing developed. Still in their early 20s, neither has given up on the NFL.

But for the moment, they'd rather not give up on Union County football, either. …

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